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Vienna's Historic Music Venues (Self Guided), Vienna

Austria is synonymous with classical music almost to the point of obsession, and to call Vienna the "Music Capital of the World" would not be an exaggeration. It was the home and workplace of some of the greatest ever musicians such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Strauss, Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert and many others. Follow this self guided walk to visit some of the venues where these music greats have performed their best work. You are in for a treat!
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Vienna's Historic Music Venues Map

Guide Name: Vienna's Historic Music Venues
Guide Location: Austria » Vienna (See other walking tours in Vienna)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.0 Km or 3.1 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Theater an der Wien (Opera House)
  • Musikverein (Vienna Philharmonic)
  • Cafe Frauenhuber
  • Michaelerkirche (St. Michael's Church)
  • Niederosterreich Palace
  • Collalto Palace
  • Augarten Palace
1
Theater an der Wien (Opera House)

1) Theater an der Wien (Opera House)

Splendid architecturally, well organized, and with a program of shows that hosts the most important artists in Europe year-round, Vinenna's oldest standing theater is a pleasure for tourists. You can read interviews with singers who say that they love it, too, because of its intimacy and the way its acoustics show off the voice.

Theater an der Wien was opened in 1801; a statue above the original Millöckergasse entrance (around the corner from the present main entrance) shows its founder, Emanuel Schikaneder, playing Papageno in Mozart's "The Magic Flute". The building is also closely linked to Beethoven, who lived here while working on "Fidelio" (his only opera, celebrating the triumph of marital love and female heroism over the cruelty of official tyranny), but also to Johann Strauss Jr, whose operetta "Die Fledermaus" was premiered on 5 April 1874 and has been part of the regular repertoire ever since.

The spirit of musical history probably adds to one's enjoyment, but the performances one sees here – including daring performances of 20th- and 21st-century works – are wonderful in themselves: imaginative and effective staging, fine orchestras and choruses, and exceptional singers. Tours of the foyer, auditorium, and stages (with a sneak peek into the cloakrooms and mask collection) sold at the box office cost €7 per person and are a wonderful way to get the entire history and see backstage areas.

Opening Hours (Box Office):
Mon-Sat: 10am–6pm; Sun / Holidays: 2–6pm
2
Musikverein (Vienna Philharmonic)

2) Musikverein (Vienna Philharmonic) (must see)

Two concert halls in one building, designed in the 1860s with dazzling gilding inside. The larger of the two, the Grosser Saal ("Great Hall"), has some of the best acoustics in the world – along with Berlin's Konzerthaus, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and Boston's Symphony Hall – and is the unofficial home of the great Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, which gives regular sell-out performances, while the other hall, the Brahms Saal, is used for smaller-scale chamber concerts.

The Musikverein's most prestigious event is the annual New Year's Day concert, a tradition started under the Nazis in 1939, and one which is now broadcast live around the world to an estimated 50 million viewers from 95 countries. If you are lucky to be in Vienna during the regular season (September-June), go for a real concert instead of a tourist-oriented one. While tickets for "proper" concerts may be sold out months in advance, other times they will be on sale up to the start of the performance. In any case, use the official box office on the left side of the building or the official website, as agencies are known to take a hefty commission.

The concert hall itself also has a rich musical history, as the place where Johann Strauss Jr. personally conducted the waltz "Freut Euch des Lebens" (Life Let Us Cherish – composed for the opening ball), and where Arnold Schönberg unleashed atonal music – or as Schönberg preferred to call it, "the emancipation of dissonance" – on an unsuspecting and unready Viennese public.

Why You Should Visit:
The building is intricately beautiful and the guided tour, fascinating.
The area itself is very happening so you should be checking it out.

Tip:
One must enter a computer lottery to win the chance to buy tickets for events, but it is well worth the effort.
One could also get a (cheaper) last-minute standing room ticket if one tries.
3
Cafe Frauenhuber

3) Cafe Frauenhuber

Vienna's oldest café, which has been going since 1824, is, as you'd likely expect, unchanged and traditional: vaulted ceiling, huge chandeliers, deep burgundy upholstery, newspapers on racks, classically attired waitstaff and no recorded music. One little change is that these days they have an outside terrace, but there is still one other good reason to come: the café's storied history, including performances by Mozart and Beethoven. The former gave his last concert in public here on March 4th, 1791 (the famous Piano Concerto No. 27), while the latter was a regular as patron and pianist, having usually sat in the back room which is easily visible from the front.

The waiters expect you to walk in and seat yourself – something that is unexpected to foreign visitors who think that such beautiful "period restaurant" must require that they be seated. No, no, go ahead and take the menu, sit down and try the usual fine Viennese fare of schnitzel, beef goulash, and either Kaiserschmarr or Haustorte for dessert. As well as these, they serve good breakfast and a range of vegetarian dishes.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 8am–11pm; Sun & Holidays: 10am–10pm
4
Michaelerkirche (St. Michael's Church)

4) Michaelerkirche (St. Michael's Church)

The oldest building on Michaelerplatz, and the source of its name, Michaelerkirche was first built in the 13th century, though the Neoclassical facade, added in 1792, somewhat obscures this fact. The high polygonal Gothic bell tower from the 16th century may be seen from far away, having become one of the Inner City's symbols. Above the entrance, on top of the pediment, resting on Doric columns, stands a group with winged angels and St. Michael slaying Lucifer (1725). These sculptural figures were executed by the Italian sculptor Lorenzo Mattielli, who also sculpted the Hercules figures at the Hofburg entrance, just opposite the church.

Inside, the church retains its plain Gothic origins, but sculptor sculptor Karl Georg Merville's "Fall of Angels" steals the show: a monumental stucco alabaster Rococo sculpture, tumbling from the ceiling above the high altar. The gilded pipe organ (1714) – Vienna's largest Baroque organ – is very fine; it was once played by the 17-year-old Joseph Haydn, who lived next door in a small attic room. The very first playing of Mozart's unfinished "Requiem" first took place here on December 10, 1791, in a requiem service for the composer. Just to the right of the church's entrance, you will find two dark reliefs commemorating said performance.

Off the north choir is the entrance to a huge crypt, discovered by U.S. soldiers in 1945, when they forced open its doors, which had been sealed for 150 years. Found lying undisturbed for centuries were hundreds of mummified former wealthy parishioners, clothed in their burial finery that was perfectly preserved by the rarefied air within.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 7am–10pm; Sun & Holidays: 8am–10pm; free admission
Crypt Tours (DE/EN):
Thu-Sat: 11am / 1pm (Apr-Oct), except on church and public holidays
5
Niederosterreich Palace

5) Niederosterreich Palace

Palais Niederösterreich holds a special place in Viennese history as the site of a revolution, the birthplace of a republic, and a host to famous musicians. It was originally the seat of the Estates House of Lower Austria, from 1861 the State Assembly building and from 1918 the Parliament of the new Republic of German Austria; add to this having been the focal point of the Viennese 1848 uprising and you can see why it's a building with rich history.

So far as music is concerned, Franz Liszt performed here in 1822, Beethoven held a similar performance in 1825, and Schubert premiered some of his works in the palace, too. After the legislature and the ministries moved out in 1997, the building underwent substantial renovations and restoration work, and is now used for concerts, exhibitions, and for private functions and events.

Easy to locate on Herrengasse – the preferred address of the nobility from the time the Habsburgs moved into the Hofburg Palace until the fall of the dynasty in 1918 – in an area teeming with pubs, bars and restaurants and some amazing architecture, so well worth checking out if you're in the area.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am–5pm
6
Collalto Palace

6) Collalto Palace

In the second week of October 1762, shortly after the Venetian patrician family Collalto acquired this palace on Schulhof Strasse, a young music prodigy named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart performed with his sister Nannerl in its original splendor as part of their maiden trip to the city. Mozart himself was only six years old and it was his first public engagement. The host, Count Collalto, was so impressed by the young talent that he even published a poem afterwards in homage to the event. A few days later, Mozart would famously go on to perform for Empress Maria Theresa at the Schönbrunn Palace.

Unfortunately, the palace is not to the public, but a plaque outside commemorates the historic occasion: "It was in this house in the 2nd week of October 1762 that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) made his first performance in the city that would become his home and destiny (The Viennese Mozart Community, 1956)".

Tip:
Take a walk around the back of the nearby church (Kirche am Hof) into Schulhofplatz to look at the tiny restored shops which occupy the space between the buttresses of the Gothic choir. In Bognergasse, to a side of the church, is the Engel Apotheke (pharmacy) at No. 9, with a Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) mosaic depicting winged women collecting the elixir of life in outstretched chalices.
7
Augarten Palace

7) Augarten Palace

Despite extensive damage suffered during World War II, the 17-century Palais Augarten, built on the site of a hunting château, has been maintained almost in its original appearance, with many sumptuous furnishings still in place. Located in the 130-acre Augarten Park, Vienna's oldest Baroque garden, the palace is now home (and rehearsal space) of the world-famous Vienna Boys' Choir (Wiener Sängerknaben) who perform music that ranges from classical to world music to pop.

As early as 1772, so-called Morgenkonzerte ("morning concerts") were conducted or performed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the Garden Hall of the Palais Augarten; but the house was also used for many other festivals and concerts. The morning concerts were for a time conducted exclusively by Mozart himself, then alternated between different conductors until 1795 when concert management was transferred to famous violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh. Ludwig van Beethoven in 1803 also had several of his works performed under the direction of Schuppanzigh, and in 1824 it was Franz Schubert's turn to have his song "The Nightingale" performed.

In the years 1820 to 1847, the 1 May concerts also took place in the Garden Hall, where mainly works by Johann Strauss Sr. were presented. In the second half of the 19th century, Augarten became much less popular than before. The Baroque park, the palace and the remaining part of the original park wall, dating from the early 18th century, are since 2000 listed as historic monuments.

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